The Best places to visit in Croatia blog post was first published on Culture Tourist on 10 July 2020 and updated on 5 May 2023.
Choosing the best places to visit in Croatia is a challenging task. Croatia is home to beautiful nature, pristine beaches, a transparent blue sea and fascinating old towns. With more than 1,000 islands, hundreds of kilometres long coast and many charming towns, choosing the best places to visit in Croatia could be tricky. Being a local, I’ve seen many of them and compiled this list of the best places to visit in Croatia.
Best places to visit in Croatia
To help you choose the best place to visit in Croatia, I broke them down into categories depending on what you’re looking for during your trip.
Best places to visit in Croatia for nature
Croatia is a heaven for nature lovers, with a diverse nature spanning from the high mountains and extensive forests to the Mediterranean coast. The country is relatively small, so you can enjoy these different sceneries within the same weekend.
Filled with forests, meadows and high mountains, Gorski kotar earned its nickname, the Green Heart of Croatia, by every right. It’s a beautiful area for hiking, walking in nature or picking some forest fruit. Gorski kotar is located between Zagreb and the Croatian coast, so you can make it a few days stop on your way towards some of the more popular destinations, such as Split or Dubrovnik. The area is home to wild animals like bears, wolves and lynx.
The most popular destinations there are the Risnjak National Park which is excellent for hiking, Fužine, famous for its lovely Bajer Lake and Zeleni Vir, close to Skrad, which is home to beautiful waterfalls.
Not to be missed: Climbing the Risnjak Mountain
Plitvice Lakes are one of the first places coming to anyone’s mind when thinking of Croatia. This fascinating national park is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. Depending on its length, you can choose the route on which you’d like to explore the park.
It has several lakes and waterfalls, so you can easily spend the whole day exploring Plitvice Lakes.
Not to be missed: Slowly enjoying in all the different shades of green and blue colours of the lakes
How to get there: Exit the A3 highway in Karlovac and follow the local road to Plitvice Lakes. There are two entrances; I suggest entering at Entrance 1 because you’ll have a better view of the lakes.
Velebit is the largest mountain in Croatia, home to two national parks (North Velebit and Paklenica). It’s a beautiful vast area in which you can enjoy pristine nature.
You can visit it during a day trip (by, for example, only visiting Paklenica National Park) or explore it during a few days long trip. Just remember to bring proper hiking equipment with you.
Not to be missed: Kutarevo Bear’s shelter
How to get there: Velebit is a large mountain, so you can get there from a few directions. You can approach it by the A1 highway and take a local road to get to the part you’d like to visit.
Often overlooked by tourists, this beautiful region located in northern Croatia is absolutely worth visiting. The Hrvatsko zagorje region is well known for its lovely green hills, numerous castles, thermal springs and delicious homemade food.
Not to be missed: Veliki Tabor Castle
How to get there: Hrvatsko zagorje is located in the very north of Croatia. You’ll get there immediately if you enter the country at the Macelj border crossing. If you’ll visit from Zagreb, follow the A2 highway and exit at a place you’d like to go to.
Best places to visit in Croatia for the beach holiday
The majority of people visiting Croatia are looking for a beach holiday. So what are the best coastal areas and towns in Croatia? If you’ll visit during the high season (months of July and August), my advice is to avoid more popular destinations and visit smaller towns and islands. They will be less crowded, and you’ll enjoy much more in your trip. However, if you’d like to see places like Dubrovnik or Split, it’s best to visit them in spring or autumn.
TIP: Croatia is home to many beautiful hidden beaches only locals know about. Ask your host or at a hotel for recommendations to visit some of those places.
Brijuni Islands are where time stands still and where you’ll find some of the most amazing beaches in Croatia. The archipelago is one of Croatia’s national parks. You can only visit it on one of the organised trips or on your own boat.
That’s why few people are around, and you’ll have its beaches mostly for yourself. The combination of islands, Roman ruins, and beautiful nature makes Brijuni Islands magical.
Not to be missed: A tourist-train ride around the main island
How to get there: On an organised trip (you can book it at the Tourism Office in Fažana).
The small island of Vis is the farthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland. It’s also where the Hollywood movie ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ was filmed. A place where you’ll find some fantastic nature, deep blue sea, peace and quiet, is one of the best places to visit in Croatia.
Not to be missed: Komiža
How to get there: On a ferry from Split
Although the most densely populated Croatian island, Ugljan has some of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia. The whole island is home to fantastic nature. There are many small villages on the island, and each of them will be a lovely destination for your holiday in Croatia.
Not to be missed: Some of the small hidden beaches
How to get there: On a ferry from Zadar
Hvar is one of my favourite places in Croatia, where you’ll find some of the most fantastic nature on the Adriatic Coast. It was inhabited since Prehistory so you can explore some fascinating cultural sites there, as well. Often called the Lavender Island, you’ll find many beautiful lavender fields next to the more common olive groves, vineyards and pine forests.
TIP: A short boat ride from Hvar will take you to Paklinski Islands. They are among the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited on the Croatian coast. And I definitely recommend a day trip there during your visit to Hvar.
Not to be missed: Paklinski Islands
How to get there: On a ferry from Split
Best places to visit in Croatia for the history lovers
Dubrovnik is one of the most famous places in Croatia. With its massive city walls, picturesque stone houses and historic old town, it comes with no surprise it’s getting so many visitors each year. Once you walk into the old town of Dubrovnik, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into history.
Not to be missed: Walking around Dubrovnik City Walls
How to get there: Dubrovnik has an airport, but it’s also well connected with other places in Croatia by the A1 highway.
Croatia’s second-largest city is filled with fantastic history. It was quite an important town during the Roman time. One of its emperors, Diocletian, even built his palace there.
Diocletian Palace makes up a massive part of the city centre today, and it’s so interesting because people actually live in it. The Diocletian mausoleum is used as the Split Cathedral today. The old basements are a location of numerous small shops. It’s also where some famous scenes from the ‘Game of Thrones’ were filmed. Split is one of the best places to visit in Croatia for anyone who loves Roman history.
Not to be missed: A walking tour around the old city centre (here is the one I recommend)
How to get there: Split has its airport, but it’s also well connected with other places in Croatia by the A1 highway.
Another Croatian town which had an important role during the Roman Empire is Zadar. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited Croatian towns. You can feel its past at its Roman Forum and at a nearby Archaeological Museum.
One of Croatia’s most important Medieval buildings, St. Donatus Church from the 9th century, is also located there (you can see it on a photo above).
Not to be missed: Walk around the Roman Forum
How to get there: Zadar has its airport, but it’s also well connected with other places in Croatia by the A1 highway.
The capital of Croatia is definitely a city to be put on your list of interesting historical places to visit in Croatia. Exploring its old Medieval ‘Upper Town’, the neo-Gothic Cathedral and the historicistic buildings of the ‘Lower Town’ is a lovely way to dive into Zagreb’s history.
Many historical tours are organised daily in the Croatian capital. So for the whole experience, be sure to join some of them.
Not to be missed: Zagreb’s ‘Upper Town’, in Croatian, called Gradec or Grič
How to get there: Many international flights arrive daily at Zagreb Airport. However, being the capital of Croatia, it’s well connected with the rest of the country.
Istria is my favourite region in Croatia, and I love spending my summer holidays there. From the coastal towns such as Rovinj, Pula or Labin to some old villages built on the top of the hills at the Istria’s inland (by legend built by the giants), there is so much to see there.
Pula was a famous Roman town. Today it’s filled with ancient buildings, such as the old amphitheatre and Roman Forum. While in Poreč, visit Euphrasian Basilica, a complex built in the 6th century, under UNESCO’s protection today.
Istria has such a fascinating history and was under the influence of many of its neighbours, like Italy and Austria. All of which could still be felt in Istria today.
Not to be missed: Roman Amphitheatre in Pula
How to get there: There is an international airport in Pula. But you can easily reach it from Zagreb by car, too.
Best places to visit in Croatia to avoid the crowds
Slavonia is a part of Croatia often overlooked not only by international tourists but also by Croatians. The Golden Valley of Croatia is one of its hidden gems and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia.
With its small picturesque villages, charming towns, Baroque churches and many good wineries, Slavonia should definitely find a place on your Croatia bucket list if you’re looking for the best places to visit in Croatia to avoid the crowds.
Not to be missed: The town of Ilok
How to get there: By car, take the A3 highway from Zagreb and exit it close to the places you’d like to visit in Slavonia.
Smaller Croatian islands
Did you know Croatia is home to around 1,000 islands? If you’re looking for some of the best places to visit in Croatia to enjoy peace and quiet, some of them could be a good choice.
You’ll find only a lighthouse on some of them. But, the best part is you can spend a night in it and have an island only for yourself. How cool would that be?
Not to be missed: Spending a night at a lighthouse
How to get there: You’ll often need a taxi boat to take you to some of those isolated islands.
Croatia is home to so many gorgeous sites, so finding the best places to visit in Croatia could be challenging. However, I hope this guide will make your choice easier. What’s your favourite place in Croatia? Share it with me in the comments below.
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